Cameroon gov’t says wreckage of missing plane carrying Australian mine execs has been found

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cameroon: plane carrying Australian execs found

YAOUNDE, Cameroon — Recovery teams including French military personnel will hack a path through dense jungle to reach the site of a plane crash site in the Republic of Congo that killed 11 people including the entire board of an Australian mining company, officials said.

An air search on Monday found the wreckage of the plane, which disappeared Saturday half an hour after it left Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, for Yangadou in Republic of Congo to visit an iron ore mining site, Cameroon’s government said.

It said 11 people were aboard, including six Australians, two French, an American and two Britons. No survivors were found by French troops who dropped by helicopter to the site on Monday.

The plane had been chartered by Sundance Resources Ltd., an Australian mining company developing a project in Cameroon. The company’s entire board of six directors was on board. The others in the plane were consultants working for the company and two pilots.

Sundance said in a statement 10 French military forces had been dropped at the site by helicopter on Monday, though most of them withdrew to a nearby mining camp at dark.

Work to recover the plane the remains of those aboard would resume at first light Tuesday, and was expected to take at least two weeks because 6-mile (10-kilometer) track would have to be cut through the jungle to site, on a western ridge of the Avima Range.

George Jones, a former chairman of Sundance who has been recalled to the company to help out during the crisis, said the cause of the crash was unknown.

“The plane hasn’t burnt extensively, so it’s too early to tell, but it doesn’t look like an explosion or a fire,” Jones told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Among the passengers were Sundance chairman Geoff Wedlock and CEO Don Lewis. Trading in Sundance Resources shares in Australia have been put on hold because of the incident.

The search was being coordinated by Cameroon, Gabonese and Republic of Congo authorities with support from Australian, Canadian and U.S. foreign officials.

On Monday, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen said the plane made two routine radio calls during its flight, one of them 30 minutes after takeoff. Neither of the calls indicated the plane was in any trouble. Weather conditions were generally good at the time of the flight.

Sundance executives had been in Cameroon in recent days to meet with officials about the company’s Mbalam project, which could earn the West African country billions of dollars over 25 years, said Cameroon government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary.

Sundance has a 90 percent stake in Cameroon Iron Ore Company (Camiron S.A.) which owns more than 1,000 square miles (1,800 square kilometers) of fields with estimated reserves of 2.2 million tons of mineral resources.

Republic of Congo is located in central Africa and often is overshadowed by its much larger neighbor, Congo.


Associated Press Writer Rohan Sullivan in Sydney contributed to this report.

will not be displayed